Fewer than half of Americans are aware that some major lifestyle factors can affect their cancer risk, and many people worry about cancer-causing claims that aren’t backed by scientific evidence, according to a survey conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). The survey results were released Wednesday to coincide with World Cancer Day.

Among 1,108 U.S. adults polled, only a minority were aware of key lifestyle risk factors for cancer — including obesity, physical inactivity, and diets high in red meat or low in fruits and vegetables.

More Americans, it seems, are worried about purported risk factors that have little to no scientific evidence to back them up, according to the survey.

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Between 54 and 62 percent of survey respondents believed that psychological stress, hormones in beef, genetically modified foods, and food additives raise people’s cancer risk. Just over half believed artificial sweeteners cause cancer — which was up by 11 percentage points, versus the same AICR survey done in 2013.

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On a positive note, most respondents knew that tobacco and excessive sun exposure can lead to cancer. On the other hand, about 10 percent fewer people in 2015 were aware that diets low in fruits and vegetables are linked to elevated risks of certain cancers compared to a 2009 AICR survey.

“About half of cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented through lifestyle choices — like not smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight,” Alice Bender, R.D.N., associate director of nutrition programs for the AICR, told HealthDay.


  1. “New Survey: U.S. Beliefs About Cancer Risk Put Fear Before Facts.” American Institute for Cancer Research. February 4, 2015. Washington, DC.